The first step to effective brand reputation management is recognizing that your reputation is really just a matter of perception. Thus, defining how potential customers perceive your brand, to a large degree, is in your control. You just need to determine some key factors, such as: does your target audience know who you are; do they trust you; and finally, do they like you?
If you can say yes to all 3, then you have done a great job of managing your brand’s reputation. If not, that’s okay and this can easily be fixed.
Let’s begin with the first one – brand awareness. If you are not consistently reaching out to your target audience with value-added content, then that’s where you’ll have to begin. If you are well known within your target markets but suffer from a lack of credibility, then building trust and confidence is where you should be focused and we’ll address this below.
Now, if people know you and believe that you can solve their problems, but still have a negative impression of you, then you’ve got some work to do. However, that too can also be fixed.
A lesson in brand perception
We have a company that we promote by writing feature articles about their successful projects. We then generate numerous earned media placement in trade publications from these stories.
The client is a startup with an incredible, breakthrough product. They were recently published on the cover of arguably the most well-respected aerospace publication in the world. They loved it, and we were very proud of the placement as well.
In fact, we liked it so much that we sent the publication over to a prospect who was considering signing up with Rankin PR for similar services. The potential client read the article and came back to us at our next meeting saying, “I love the article, but I don’t think we could ever generate press coverage like this. We are not a billion-dollar a year company like these guys.”
It is safe to say, he was shocked when pulled back the curtain. The company featured on the cover of this publication was actually a small startup run by a brother and sister. They were not a billion-dollar company at all; not yet anyway.
However, the article had created a perception in his mind that this company must be huge.
What’s you’re worth
This is not an uncommon response. For example, we had another company we promoted by writing feature articles for them in the tech sector. The owner loved generating press, but he later informed us he had additional motivations. He had theorized that the articles could also bolster his company in the eyes of potential investors. After about 18 months of working with us and having been published in more than 60 publications, the owner called to tell us he had sold his business for six times what he expected just a year and a half earlier.
He went on to say that the buyers mentioned seeing all the press. It had actually played a big part in them acquiring the company. Side note: I have a postcard that this client sent me not long ago from some sandy beach in the South Pacific. It said simply, “Thank You.”
Perception isn’t everything, it is the only thing.
PR for brand reputation management
You can’t control everything that is said about your business. However, you can own and manage much of the narrative with consistent and positive press coverage. This is why public relations is so critical in shaping perceptions. It builds brand awareness, credibility, and likeability all at the same time.
While any positive coverage in the media is good, feature articles that convey your key messaging points, differentiators, and value proposition are increasingly separating the haves from the have-nots. If done right, these articles can be published in 50-60 top-tier publications per year, making impressions with about 10 million potential customers.
When was the last time you, your company, your services, or your customers were featured in the media? Trade publications, newspapers, podcasts… think of all those potential customers who may not even know you exist!
However, the value goes beyond brand awareness. According to a recent research report, [trade] publications remained the most common place engineers go to find information. In fact, according to a report from MediaGrowth Research, 97% of engineers and B2B decision-makers said they make purchasing decisions based directly on what they read in trade publications.
It also doesn’t hurt that when these articles are published online, they help increase your digital presence and boost SEO by providing high-authority backlinks to your website.
In addition, feature articles that include your customers doing the talking for you – explaining the problems they faced and how you were able to solve them – creates both trust and awareness, but also increases positive sentiment with potential customers.
Brand reputation management; don’t take it from us
A huge part of any decision-making process comes down to what other people have to say about you. This can come in the form of a review, recommendation, or direct word-of-mouth testimonial.
While your website may be one of the first results that pops up for your top keywords searches, people are much more likely to trust what other (non-vendor) sites are saying about you. They are looking for real, honest, and unfiltered reviews from other customers.
Moreover, these prospects not only have to believe that you’ve solved similar problems for others, but that it went smoothly and they would now recommend you. They may even want to know about any experiences that did not go so smoothly and how you handled it. These all help to paint a broader picture of whether or not a potential customer will do business with you.
Today, online reviews have become one of the most effective forms of (unpaid) advertising. They are trusted nearly as much as a friend recommending a restaurant or doctor. By sharing their experiences, your customers become brand advocates, assisting you in gaining new customers and retaining existing customers.
A social side to brand reputation management
Another critical area of focus that is only growing in importance for brand reputation management is social media. These platforms are often among the first places people go for customer support, product queries, or to share their customer experience.
Fortunately, social media is the easiest way to directly communicate, engage and educate customers. It also gives you the opportunity to monitor what they’re saying.
For B2Bs, there is no better platform than LinkedIn for brand reputation management. In fact, it’s the most trusted social media network in the U.S. and saw an incredible 50% growth in engagement in 2020 – unheard of for a mature platform.
LinkedIn has several features that aid in establishing and managing brand reputation. For instance, utilizing the right hashtags can position your content directly in front of your target audience. NOTE: (LinkedIn recommends 4-6 hashtags max.
There is also the fact that only 1% of users on LinkedIn are actually creating original content. This gives you a huge platform from which to generously give away insightful, beneficial content which in turn builds your following.
The key to social media, however, is posting consistently. This is often too time-consuming for most organizations. It is, however, a task Rankin PR now handles for a growing list of clients with fantastic results.
Customers purchase from companies they know, trust, and like. Regardless of the avenues you choose, brand reputation management can make or break your business. However, having a strong strategy in place ensures you’re building customer loyalty and driving future growth.